LIVING WITH J. MICHAEL
J. Michael Straczynski bestrides the world of mainstream science fiction like a colossus, but few people really know or understand the man. When allegations concerning plot abuse were made against him in 1997 he became a reclusive figure and JMS became regarded as an enigma wrapped inside a beard. Until now...
Martin Bashir decided to live with Straczynski for eight long months - the result was a fascinating, no-holds barred documentary which exposed the truth behind the legend. Tachyon TV is proud to present this exclusive extract:
Bashir: J. Michael, if I could begin with your childhood. What sort of upbringing did you have?
JMS: Life in the Shire was very difficult; as a young man I suffered constant abuse from my agent. He was a failed scriptwriter you see, and he forced me to write my own scripts every day, always hovering close by with a big thick brown belt, the memory of which still haunts me now. He made me hone such things as dialogue, exposition, metaphor and incongruous apostrophes until my fingers bled. Sometimes he would tear up the finished script and insult me until I took out an injunction on his opinions.
Bashir: What? Really?
Bashir: Eventually you sold your first script for television and you then found fame and fortune in Hollywood. Tell me, how did that make you feel?
JMS: Incredibly proud. Shows like Murder, She Wrote and The Real Ghostbusters brought a sense of wonder and innocence to the minds of small children and valium addicted housewives everywhere. And then there was Captain Power and the Soldiers of Hasbro - the very first toy commercials which employed a complex story arc. Yes, I am very proud of that one.
Bashir: It was around this time that you got the idea for Babylon 5 . How important was it for you to get this show off the ground?
JMS: It was by no means easy. At that time, science fiction was seen as a largely childish genre which only existed to sell toys or continue franchises, which is, of course, completely different from how it is seen today. I had to push for it quite hard.
JMS: Nah. I just hawked it around a few times and whadaya know, it got made!
Bashir: Around the time of Babylon 5's later seasons, reports were appearing in the popular science fiction press concerning allegations of - how can I put this - plot abuse . Words like 'dead horse' and 'flogging' come to mind. I know this is a sensitive subject for you, but could you put forward your side of the story?
JMS: The tabloid sci-fi press exists for two things only: to print photographs of scantily clad PVC-clad women on their covers, and to print lies about hardworking, humble and honest folks, such as executive producers and scriptwriters. You know, there are a lot of very cynical people out there.
Bashir: I know, I've read your self-promotional 'How to Write For Film and Television'.
JMS: What? Really?
Bashir: No. But to return to the subject of abuse, surely you can see how some people find your behaviour disturbing? For example, there was that time you grabbed Jerry Doyle by the neck and dangled him over a balcony of a hotel in Blackpool, and then there was that really silly Babylon 5 spin-off series -
JMS: Right, this interview is cancelled!
Bashir VO: And so sci-fi's self-styled King of Pap exited the room at haste, his enigma largely destroyed, his reputation dented, his career potentially shattered. My chequing account as plump as the girth of the man I'd just destroyed. Next week I'll be exploring the question "George Lucas - what is it about this guy and desktop computers?"
Other incredible scenes to look forward to when the JMS documentary airs:
JMS is seen holding hands with Luke Perry during a rehearsal for Jeremiah !
During one memorable scene, JMS teaches Bashir to Bullshit!
JMS is seen walking into a bookshop in Sherman Oaks where he proceeds to buy six gold encrusted hardback editions of The Hobbit !
JMS visits the zoo dressed as a Narn!
JMS breaks down and weeps like a small boy when the Sci-Fi Channel turn down Polaris !
Harlan Ellison is revealed to be a surrogate script consultant whom JMS has never met!
Behind the scenes goss:
In a follow-up documentary - produced by Straczynski himself - Martin Bashir is seen weeping to an episode of Crusade after comparing Straczynski's talent to that of Shakespeare.
JMS insisted to Bashir that Ron Thornton computer generate his baseball cap throughout the whole interview.
A seven hour director's cut features a complete and uncut version of the scene where JMS climbs into the tree where he wrote Severed Dreams.